US Navy’s troubled Littoral Combat Ship program could face the axe

USS Freedom (Reuters / Lockheed-Martin)

According toNational Defense Magazine, back in April the Navy released a request seeking information on technologies and methods that could be used to improve the current version of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). A separate information request, meanwhile, asked for designs for brand new ships.

A report on the submissions made to the Navy is scheduled to be completed on July 31, though the Navy stated that the United States does not expect to award contracts based on the proposals it receives.

“Why are we going out to industry? We want to collect their ideas and thoughts that they certainly have because…it will give us a better idea, I think, of what is technically feasible in the time frames we are talking about,” John Burrow, executive director of Marine Corps Systems Command, said to the magazine.

“It will give our team a good idea of what the risks are and help understand the cost associated with many of the systems and concepts that are going to be provided to us.”

After the task force responsible for looking through the proposals completes its survey, it will inform Navy leadership of the costs associated with each one. This information will help the Navy decide exactly how to continue forward with the LCS, if at all.

Burrow also told National Defense that the task force will determine whether the Navy can implement improvements into a modified version of the current LCS or if the service needs to design a new ship.

Specifically, the Navy is looking for proposals regarding the four main missions that the LCS was designed for: air warfare, surface warfare, undersea warfare, and mine hunting.

As RT has reported in the past, the LCS program has come under intense scrutiny over the past few years. While the ship has been criticized for insufficient armor and for sporting anemic offensive capabilities, a report from 2013 also found the fleet to be vulnerable to cyber attacks.

That same year, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing and evaluation said the LCS were “not expected to be survivable” in a “hostile combat environment.”

Due to performance concerns as well as ballooning budgets – the first LCS vessels cost $700 million each before the Navy trimmed the price tag down to about $300 million – the Pentagon announced in January that it was cutting its LCS orders down to 32 from the original 52.

Even so, several companies submitting proposals to the Navy argue that they could deliver ships just as capable as the LCS but at significantly reduced costs. Juliet Marine Systems’ stealth patrol boat, known as ‘Ghost,’ is one possibility. The ship costs just $10 million for each copy, and the company is working on building Ghosts the size of a corvette that would cost roughly $50 million each.

But while the company claims that Ghost can already carry out the same missions as the LCS, Juliet Marine CEO Greg Sancoff said the fact that it’s only designed for near-shore activities and isn’t as large as the LCS means selling it to the Navy is difficult.

“As you know, the Navy likes big ships,” he told National Defense. “Admirals want to stand on bridges of big ships. That’s why we have LCS. Our country has not readily adapted to new technologies in hydrodynamics.”

France hits back at UK over criticism of Russia Mistral ship deal

French naval ship FNS Mistral.(AFP Photo / Roslan Rahman)

Following the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Paris for its plan to go ahead with the delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. Cameron stressed that the move would be “unthinkable” in Britain.

The English in particular were very pleasant so to speak saying we would never do that, but I told my dear British friends let’s talk about the financial sector,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 television after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels.

I am led to believe that there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London,” he added, as quoted by Reuters.

When asked whether he meant that the UK must first address its own business, Fabius replied: “Exactly.

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande said the plan to deliver the Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia would go forward, despite calls from the US and UK. The first ship is nearly completed and will be presented in October.

The Russians have paid. Should we repay 1.1 billion euros if the boat was not delivered to the purchaser?” he asked while speaking to reporters late on Monday – the night before an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss tougher sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

For the time being, a level of sanctions has not been decided on that would prevent this delivery,” he said. “The contract was signed in 2011, the boat is almost finished and should be delivered in October.

France will be the first NATO country to supply Russia with military equipment. Under the 1.2 billion euro contract (US$1.6 billion) signed by Russian defense exporting company Rosoboronexport and French DCNS in June 2011, Russia is to receive two Mistral-class helicopter carriers.

The head of Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, told iTélé television on Tuesday that “Hollande is not backing down.”

He is delivering the first (ship) despite the fact he is being asked not to…This is a false debate led by hypocrites…When you see how many (Russian) oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own backyard,” he continued.

US President Barack Obama expressed concern in June about France continuing significant defense deals with Moscow, following Crimea’s accession to Russia in March. He said that it “would have been preferable to press the pause button” on the deal.

On Monday, a senior US administration official reiterated that Washington has not changed its stance and continues to oppose the deliveries.

However, it is not yet clear whether France will go through with the delivery of the second ship, which is planned for the end of next year.

Does that mean that the rest of the contract – the second Mistral – can be carried through? That depends on Russia’s attitude,” Hollande said on Monday evening.

Florida town: Get your pants off the ground or face 6 months in jail

Reuters / Mohamad Torokman

“Lookin’ like a fool, walkin’ downtown with ya pants on the ground,” ‘General’ Larry Platt famously sang in his ‘American Idol’ audition. “Giddy up! Get ya pants off the ground!”

Officials in Ocala, Fla. agree with Platt’s sentiment so much that city council unanimously passed an ordinance that prohibits anyone on city property from wearing pants two inches or more below a person’s natural waist.

“I just think it’s disgraceful to show your underwear,” Councilwoman Mary Rich said to WFTV. “We try to be a nice, clean city. I think it’ll help clean it up some.”

Rich previously tried to pass the rule in 2009, but no one seconded the motion. At the time, Mayor Kent Guinn objected to the ordinance, in part because he thought it would lead to profiling.

Rich said the ordinance applies to both genders and all races.

“It doesn’t matter what color they are,” Rich said, according to the Washington Post blog GovBeat. “They all wear their pants down.”

Guinn, who oversees the Ocala Police Department as part of his mayoral duties, asked Rich at the council meeting how officers were supposed to measure the distance between a suspect’s natural waist and the waistband of the pants. He said it is not like seat belts, which are either being worn or not, the Ocala Star-Banner reported.

“We are not looking to charge people,” City Attorney Patrick Gilligan said. “If they don’t comply, I think the chief will tell police officers to take your phone out and take a picture.”

The sagging pants ordinance is enforceable on city-owned or leased property, including sidewalks, streets, parks, sports, recreation and public transportation facilities and parking lots.

When asked about a service worker, say a plumber, whose buttcrack might show, “He will get a warning like everybody else,” Gilligan said, according to the Star-Banner.

Police are expected to issue warnings to saggy-pantsed offenders at first. After that, those caught with their pants down face a $500 fine or jail time, WFTV reported.

MTV’s Rob Markman condemned the ordinance. “Still, it isn’t the rap stars getting into hot water that’s the most troublesome, it’s the thought that a local government can dictate how young people dress,” the MTV News hip-hop beat writer penned. “First it’s saggy jeans, next it’s the way you tie your shoe laces (sic) or the way you wear your hat.”

Teacher Howard Gunn said he was concerned about enforcement. “Most of these kids you are dealing with are ones that have probably been in jail or are going to jail,” Gunn told the Ocala council. “A lot of times they are going through things. And we slap this on them, they are going to go further.”

“The kids are going to say something to you because they don’t know the law,” Gunn said about the police. “And then, there you go. Escalation. Now you have an assault on a police officer.”

Over the years, lawmakers around the country have proposed and passed laws to try to crack down on the sagging pants trend. In Fort Worth, Texas, you can’t sag and ride the city bus. In Opaocka, Fla., refusing to tighten your trousers will cost you $250. In Colinsville, Illinois, wearing saggy pants on any public property is banned. And in New York, State Senator Eric Adams used his own money to put up billboards that read, “Stop the Sag.”

Airlines have booted people over it: Billie Joe Armstrong, the frontman of the band Green Day, was kicked off a 2011 flight for sagging his pants too low. So was then-University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman, who was also arrested (but not charged) for the fashion statement.

‘We will react to NATO build-up!’: Key Putin quotes from defense policy address

President Vladimir Putin (center) holding a meeting with Russian Security Council permanent members, July 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Ekaterina Shtukina)

On NATO’S missile system and Russia’s defense

NATO forces have been increasing military presence in Eastern European countries bordering Russia and sending warships to the Baltic and Mediterranean due to the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. NATO has also stated that it will endorse new funding for Ukraine’s defense, blaming Russia for destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.

We shall provide an adequate and well-measured response to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, and we shall take note of [the West] setting up a global missile defense architecture and building up its arsenals of precision-guided weapons,” Putin said on Tuesday.

No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on. As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale.”

Putin stated that NATO’s military build-up near Russia’s border is not just for defense, but is an “offensive weapon” and an “element of the US offensive system deployed outside the mainland.

With that in mind, we need to promptly and diligently implement all the measures we have planned to strengthen our nation’s defense capabilities, including our plans for Crimea and Sevastopol, where we will practically have to set up our military architecture from scratch.”

On sanctions and sovereignty

Putin has criticized the rounds of sanctions that the US and EU have imposed on Russia, which began during Crimea’s accession to Russia and continued after the MH17 plane crash in Ukraine.

The very concept of the state sovereignty is becoming diluted. Unwanted regimes and countries that are trying to exercise independent policy or simply stand in the way of someone’s interests are getting destabilized,” Putin said.

Attempts aimed at destabilizing the social and political situation, throwing off Russia and striking at its vulnerable and soft spots have been and will be made,” he added.

According to Putin, Western states are trying to “make Russia agreeable so that certain matters at the international arena are resolved in favor of other countries.”

The so-called competitive struggle at the international arena will imply the use of tools in both economic and political fields. This will include the potential of security services, modern information and communication technologies, and connections of dependent, puppet NGOs – the so-called soft power,” Putin pointed out. “Apparently, some countries regard it as democracy.”

Putin stressed that Russia has an edge over other states, as the country isn’t a member of any alliance.

Any alliance member countries lose part of their sovereignty and it rarely goes in tune with the national interests of the country. But it’s their sovereign decision.”

On our part, we follow all the norms of international law and fulfill our obligations to our partners. We expect other countries and organizations, military and political alliances – Russia is not a part of any alliance, and that underpins our sovereignty – to take our national interests into consideration.

The president also pointed out that any controversial issues in Russia will be “settled through diplomatic means only,” with no other state meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

Such methods that are used to pressure weak countries will not work on Russia, he said, adding that they are “absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive” and “undermining the current world order.”

On Ukraine crisis and MH17 investigation

Internal problems are often used to trigger coups that are financed from outside, Putin said.

Of course, there always are some kinds of problems, but it is not clear why one has to use them to completely destabilize and destroy the country – what we often see recently in various regions of the world.”

As a result of such coups, radical nationalist – or simply neo-fascist, fundamentalist forces – come to power, which is what happened in Ukraine, Putin said.

Yes, after the coup, elections were held, but for some reason again those who funded or carried out the coup became the heads of state. The current authorities are using force trying to silence the part of the population that disagrees with this development,” Putin noted with regret.

The international community has been calling on Russia to use its influence on the eastern anti-government militia to cooperate in the resolution of the crisis.

We of course will do everything in our power but that is not nearly enough,” the president said.

Putin believes the West must appeal to Kiev to honor its ceasefire pledge.

Putin highlighted that Kiev should not fuel the conflict, citing Tuesday’s incident when “the Ukrainian Armed Forces attacked Donetsk with their tanks” as the local militia were handing the black box of the crashed MH17 over to experts.

Tanks broke through to the train station and opened fire at it. The international experts there could not even look out of the windows,” said the Russian head of state. “It’s not like the rebels are shooting at themselves.”

Jury deliberates in Jesse Ventura defamation suit against ‘American Sniper’

Jesse Ventura.(AFP Photo  / Brendan Smialowski)

Ventura, the former independent governor of Minnesota state and the current host of Ora TV’s ‘Off the Grid’, alleges that he was intentionally defamed by Chris Kyle, a slain SEAL who spoke critically of the ex-wrestler in his 2012 best-selling book and subsequent public statements.

In ‘American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History,’ Kyle wrote that he knocked a man later identified as Ventura down to the ground with a punch to the face during a 2006 incident at a California bar. Ventura insists the altercation never occurred, however, nor did he speak disparaging remarks about then-President George W. Bush and the Navy SEALS, as attributed to him by Kyle, that sparked the alleged altercation.

In Kyle’s book, he claims he knocked-out a man identified only as “Scruff Face” after the individual said during a barroom conversation that the SEALs “deserve to lose a few,” and that the American military was “killing innocent men, women and children.”

“Being level-headed and calm can last only so long,” Kyle wrote in his book. “I laid him out. Tables flew. Stuff happened. Scruff Face ended up on the floor.”

During media appearances related to the book’s release, Kyle claimed that “Scruff Face” was a pseudonym he used for Ventura, who was a member of the Underwater Demolition Teams, a predecessor of the SEALs.

Attorneys for Ventura responded to the release of Kyle’s book with a defamation suit. The former pro-wrestler says his reputation was tarnished with the release of Kyle’s book and the subsequent statements that linked him to the “Scruff Face” character.

As RT reported previously, the celebrated sniper died early last year after being gunned down at a Texas shooting range. Eddie Ray Routh, a former Marine and Iraq War vet who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, was charged with killing Kyle and one other in the incident.

Kyle’s attorneys collected hours of testimony before his passing, and showed his video deposition during the trial. Tara Kyle, the sniper’s widow and executor of the sniper’s estate, also testified.

Ventura took the stand as well. He admitted that he was in the bar that night, at a reunion with his former Navy colleagues before a SEAL graduation ceremony the next day. But he said there was no confrontation, and was uncertain if he interacted with Kyle in the bar, according to the New York Times. Ventura said he was not drinking that night, and has note drunk alcohol since 2002, when he was prescribed blood-thinning medication.

Witnesses gave conflicting testimony about the events of the night. Defense witness Laura deShazo could not definitively say who punched Ventura, and stated the fight occurred on the patio, while Kyle said it happened in the bar, according to the Washington Post.

Current SEAL John Kelly said that he was with Kyle at the bar, and the two talked to Ventura, who started sounding off on his opposition to the war in Iraq and the futility of the mission there, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported. Kelly testified that he didn’t see the punch – Kyle only told him about it – but he did see the famed sniper run from the scene, something he said superior officers tacitly encourage if SEALs get into dust-ups while out on the town.

In his closing argument, Ventura attorney David Bradley Olson said he believes Kyle’s estate has earned more than $6 million from the book, and suggested that $5 million to $15 million would be reasonable compensation for what he said was irreparable harm to Ventura’s reputation.

“The verdict will tell the world Chris Kyle’s story was a lie,” Olson said, according to the Associated Press.

“One-point-five million people have bought the book,” he said. “Millions more heard Fox TV trash Jesse Ventura because of it. And the story went viral on the Internet and will be there forever.”

But defense attorney John Borger told jurors in his own closing argument that Ventura failed to prove his claim that Kyle made up the story, and didn’t prove he suffered financially because of the book.

“Jesse Ventura is either deluding himself or intentionally telling you things that just aren’t true,” Borger said.

Raleigh Levine, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, told the AP’s Amy Forliti that Ventura’s attorneys will likely have a harder time proving Kyle acted maliciously than just proving falsity.

“It has to do with what you know about the truth — that you actually knew that what you were saying was false or that you recklessly disregarded the truth,” Levine said.